Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Things I Want (Donkey Kong Arcade) and Things I Dont Want (OnLive)

I read some interesting things this week between epic sessions of Gears and poker. First, Nintendo has launched its Virtual Console Arcade, which brings emulations of classic coin-op arcade games to the Wii. When I read this, I thought, my goodness these people at Nintendo are brilliant. They know just what we want. Retro arcade titles downloaded to your new shiny extra large SD card (which you can now launch games directly from, rather than just storing them there. Dont ask.) Then I read the group of launch titles Nintendo had picked: Gaplus (also known as Galaga 3), Mappy (a mediocre 1983 platformer), Star Force (a primitive Xevious clone), and Tower of Druaga (Namco's red headed stepchild of a maze game). It was at this point that I realized this is the same group of people that named the premier consumer electronic entertainment product in the world after a part of the British male anatomy.

What are these people thinking? Does anyone on the planet earth really want to play Mappy? Are you effing kidding me? That game sucked twenty years ago. Meanwhile Nintendo has Donkey Kong, which many people (including yours truly) consider to be the greatest arcade game ever made - and they just let it sit there by the side of the road like a used condom. Donkey Kong is Shigeru Miyamoto's seminal masterpiece of video game design, but the NES version available on the Wii VC sucks because it doesnt include the cement factory and later screens (such as the legendary and impossible to reach kill screen) where the game runs out of memory and crashes. My message to Nintendo:

Give me kill screens or give me death.

Moving on to things I dont want, lets talk about OnLive, touted by some as the true next generation of gaming. From IGN:

"Just announced at this year's GDC, OnLive is an on-demand gaming service. It's essentially the gaming version of cloud computing - everything is computed, rendered and housed online. In its simplest description, your controller inputs are uploaded, a high-end server takes your inputs and plays the game, and then a video stream of the output is sent back to your computer. Think of it as something like Youtube or Hulu for games."

Before I say anything else, let me tell you where I stand: if OnLive is the future of gaming, that is a future which does not include your truly. I will be residing in an assisted living home with my NES, Genesis, PS2, Xbox and my 37 copies of Burnout 3 and I will be eating boiled cabbage 3 times a day and be perfectly happy because some douche in a suit didnt shovel remote gaming down my ethernet port.

Personally, I think its a bit far fetched and certainly not for hardcore gamers. I can see this kind of thing being a success with casual gamers, where graphics quality and lag dont pose any threat. But for starters, I just dont believe its possible to encode 720P/30FPS video and stream it over the internet in realtime. There will be lag, the question is just how much, and for me the answer is any amount is too great for a serious gaming session. Think about how annoying a laggy online match of Gears or Halo or Call of Duty is - now imagine trying to play the entire single player game that way. Now factor in that PC gamers have been using resolutions exceeding 1900x1200 for years, often with frame rates of over 60FPS, and you can see how this is going to be a hard sell. Even if the lag is minimized and the video encoding/compression is stellar, there is no way these games will look as good as if you were running them on your own high end PC. My message to OnLive and its partners:

Give me local gaming or give me death.

Assisted living is OK too.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Is Craigslist Done?

Craigslist was the bomb for a few years there. You could buy a used laptop or guitar on the cheap and quick. Sadly, that time seems to have passed. Its still a useful tool by all means, the community postings and other sections are still good, but the for sale area of the NYC craigslist is rotten to the core now. The magical era when it was all so new, not too big or too small, and everyone who posted stuff for sale was cool and the stuff was legit is gone. Now, its totally shady. Offers for $35K cars for $5K, ipods for $30 and about 300,000 ads for various electronics - which will be shipped to you from China. Aside from it being shady, it ridiculously commercialized, and really thats the main issue for me. Its no longer individuals selling used stuff, its companies and corporations selling new stuff. I tried to wade through the postings and spam for a few legit nuggets of value, but to no avail. Its done. Next?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Sonimod

Such Flippycat.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Bong Song

Livin la Vida Smoka! Bong bong bong bong bong!

Friday, March 27, 2009

1,000+ MPH Car: The Bloodhound SSC

A British engineering team is planning to break the land speed record in the next 2 years with a hybrid rocket/jet powered car that can travel at speeds upwards of 1,000 miles per hour. The same team that broke the land speed record with the Blue Flame (630mph) and Thrust SSC (760mph), headed by Richard Noble, will attempt to build a vehicle capable of both staying on the ground and travelling over mach 1.4 - thats faster than a speeding bullet.

As the car accelerates, from 0-1,050mph in 40 seconds, the pilot, who is lying down feet first in the cockpit, will experience a force of 2.5g (2 times his bodyweight) and the blood will rush to his head. To slow down, airbrakes will deploy at 800 mph and parachutes at 600 mph. As he decelerates, experiencing forces of up to 3g, the blood will drain to his feet and he could black out.

Read more about the record breaking car here on the Bloodhound SSC Website.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Gears of War 2 Snowblind Map Pack Trailer

The Snowblind Mpa pack is looking awesome, this is gonna be a must buy day of release. If you havent downloaded the first map pack, I highly recommend it as well. We are playing Horde on Fuel Station this Friday night (3/27), be there!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 Trailer

Just some game audio, but if this is any indication, the quality should be on par with the first game. Call of Duty 4 is one of the greatest shooters ever made, so the sequal has a lot to live up to.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Tom Dwan - The Hand


People will be talking about this hand for years - it is the formal introduction to the masses of 22 year old poker genius Tom Dwan. Many posters on the 2+2 and Pocket5s forums are saying its the sickest play anyone has ever made on GSN's High Stakes Poker. While Im not sure this beats Brad Booth's $300K bet with 4 high for pure sickness, this play demonstrates another planet of poker thinking that few people ever venture to. While it is a world class play, a perfect storm of developments had to come together for him to pull it off. To Dwan's credit, when he saw the winds of weakness starting to swirl, he never hesitated to drop the hammer.

In my wildest dreams I would never think of making this play, nor would 99.9% of all other poker players who have never sat with 500 big blinds in their life. But very deep stacked poker is just different, and it requires a different type of creative play to dominate. Gabe Kapler compares Dwan's hyperagressive play to Stu Unger - who many consider to be the most agressive - and best - player ever. Durrr (Dwan's online name) has utterly conquered the world of online poker, and has now set his sights on the biggest cash games and tournaments on the planet. If plays like this are any indication, Dwan has a chance to become one of the overall biggest winners - and best players - in the history of the game.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Little BIG Gradius

It never ceases to amaze me what people do with LBP.

Friday, March 20, 2009

All Your Base Are Belong To Us

Before cats who can has cheezburgers, before we asked if it would blend, before we heard Chocolate Rain or that guitar kid, before the numa numa guy and the pagent girl from South Carolina, before this is madness, beforeLeeroy Jenkins, before any of those we had All Your Base Are Belong To Us, and it blew our fucking minds. 10 years old now, this phenomena is the ultimate, archetypal meme of the internet. It all comes back to this.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Infamous Trailer

Will this game be good? Who knows. But some of the animations looks pretty sick in this video. Check it out.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Peggle Impressions: Digital Crack Rock

What is Peggle? Part puzzle game, part Real Time Strategy game, part Pinball, part Pachinko, 100% addictive and 1000x more fun than most other "simplistic" games it competes against, Peggle is in fact the Piece de Resistance of the casual gaming movement outside of the Nintendo Wii. The company who makes it calls themselves PopCap Games, but really they should call themselves CrackRock Games, as the title would be much more apt. Once you try the FREE DEMO ("here, try some of this kid"), theres no turning back. It doesnt matter if you are a suburban housewife who plays games while watching Oprah, or a hardcore Halo junkie that plays on Xbox Live 12 hours a day, this game will get its hooks into you and not let go without a feverish fight.

The graphics are primitive at best (you cant even adjust the resolution in the PC version) and the physics are wonky. The menus and backgrounds are all Unicorns and Rainbows and happy little Gnomes and Furry Animals. You shoot the balls at the orange bricks until they are all gone. Sometimes you get a powerup. Its all extremely simple and disgustingly cute, and yet utterly compelling and disturbingly addictive all at the same time. What it comes down to is that Peggle is a masterpiece of game design. Its a game you can literally play for 5 seconds at a time and still enjoy. How is that possible? It just shouldnt be. But it is.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Monday, March 16, 2009

AVGN's NES Game Collection

Here we have the Angry Video Game Nerd showing us his massive, almost complete NES library, which includes all sorts of rare and off brand games. Currently he is waiting for Gametrailers to renew his contract so he can continue making AVGN vidoes, but it hasnt happened yet so we'll just have to wait for his drunken, profanity laced tirades to continue.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

I Need $32K For A Pizza Machine

The New York Times

Over the last decade, Mr. Torghele, 56, an entrepreneur in this northern Italian city who first made money selling pasta in California, has developed a vending machine that cooks pizza. The machine does not just slip a frozen pizza into a microwave. It actually whips up flour, water, tomato sauce and fresh ingredients to produce a piping hot pizza in about three minutes.

The machine Mr. Torghele and his engineers produced is outfitted with little windows so the customer can watch the pizza being made. As in the Charlie Chaplin film “Modern Times” (in miniature and without Chaplin) wheels turn and gears grind. The customer presses a button to choose one of four varieties — margherita (plain cheese and tomato sauce), bacon, ham or fresh greens. A plastic container dumps flour into a drum resembling a tiny washing machine; a squirt of water follows, and the drum goes into a spin cycle, forming a blob of dough that is then pressed flat to form a 12-inch disk.

Tomato paste is squirted onto the dough and cheese is added before it is lifted into a small infrared oven. The baked pizza then slips onto a cardboard tray and out into the customer’s waiting hands. Mr. Torghele says the pizza will cost as little $4.50, depending on the variety. The pizza vending machine sells for US$32,000.


Saturday, March 14, 2009

Fallout 3: The Pitt Trailer

This looks like its going to be a great piece of DLC for Fallout 3 fans. My only concern is that they still havent raised the level cap, so I might have to make a new character rather than play the DLC capped at 20. There arent many flaws with Fallout 3 - some lackluster character animations, odd 3rd person camera work, quirky realtime weapon aiming, and fast leveling with a hard cap are really the only drawbacks to an otherwise otherwordly game. I havent been this engrossed in an RPG since Neverwinter Nights 2 or possibly even Jade Empire - two of my favorite RPGs of all time.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Quote of the Week

"If theres not a straight flush on the flop, you cant be drawing dead with a pocket pair higher than the board!"

- "Crazy" New Jersey Eddy after seeing my pocket Jacks take down a flopped King High Flush, going runner runner to put 3 threes on the board for a full house.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Hilarious MLB 2K9 Glitches

MLB 2k9 is the most unintenionally hilarious game since Assassins Creed. Check out these ridiculous glitches. The second video I really cant watch without cracking up. As funny as these videos are, you have to kinda feel bad for 360 owners who spent $65 on this game. For now and the forseeable future, Sony's MLB 09 The Show is the reigning king of non-comedy baseball games.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Sick Move

Sometimes you have to make a sick play in poker to maintain your edge over the other players. If you become too predictable, or sprout a leak somewhere, other observent players will exploit you. This play is a great example of a play that doesnt have a lot of short term value - in fact its incredibly risky - but all great players have to be able to make situational based high risk plays in order to be un-exploitable over the long term. When your opponents fear you in No Limit Hold Em, you cant be exploited. When other players fear you, they wont bet into you without the nuts because you are liable to reraise them all in at the slightest hint of weakness.

What you see above is a rather extreme, high stakes version of the Sick Move. Playing $300/$600 No Limit Hold Em, David Williams makes it $1800 to go from early position. Brad Booth, sensing weakness, makes a raise to $5800. Phil Ivey looks down at KK and makes it $14,000. It gets back to Williams who folds, and Booth thinks for a while before calling. Phil has about $300K in front of him, and Booth has him covered. Booth's preflop call is correct because of to the implied odds he is getting on Phil's whole stack, which Gabe Kaplan notes in the commentary.

The flop comes all low cards, 3-6-7. Phil makes a standard bet of $23,000 into a $28,000 pot. And thats when things get a little bit crazy - because Brad Booth responds by putting 3 massive $100,000 bricks of cash into the pot! It looks like some crazy move on TV - and it is - but there is a method to the madness. The reality of deep stack poker is that only 5-6 hands can ever call in that spot: a set, two pair, or aces. The likelyhood of Phil Ivey having one of those hands is somewhere in the range of 2%. In tournaments and normal short and medium stack play, calling an all in on the flop with kings is almost always correct. But once the stacks go well over 150 big blinds - and in this case they are playing with 500+ big blinds - the values of starting hands normalize and calling off your entire stack with one pair is almost never correct - unless that pair happens to be aces and the preflop action suggests you have your opponent drawing to two outs.

But Booth's play has another purpose besides simply getting Ivey to correctly fold, and winning a small pot. He is advertising that he is unpredictable, dangerous, reckless, and willing to gamble with you for every last penny in your wallet with just 4 outs to a gutshot straight draw. Let me tell you as cash game player, thats the last guy in the world you want at the table. You want to play against predictable opponents who play a narrow range of hands and make routine plays. Booth is telling Ivey - Im the craziest motherfucker at this table and dont you even think about playing back at me. Its a play that as I said before, has little short term value, but it establishes Booth's image as a fearless player, and within the metagame inside the game of poker, the monetary value of your opponents fearing you is unquantifiable.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Gradius ReBirth Impressions

My impression is pretty simple: if you have a Wii, and you have ever enjoyed playing a Gradius game or a side scrolling 2D shooter, download this new WiiWare game for 1000 Wii Points. Developed by M2 and published by Konami, Gradius Rebirth features a vintage retro-classic look and soundtrack, level designs and bosses which are inspired by past Gradius games (especially Gradius 2), and the same simple, easy to master controls and power up system as all Gradius games. This isnt a rewriting of the Gradius formula, but rather a perfection of it.

Whatever you do, dont listen to those wussbags at IGN who think the game is too hard, when its really, really not. Listen, I play a ton of SHMUP games so Im aware that my judgment is a bit slanted, but even taking that into account, this game has an almost perfect difficulty curve for everyone from beginners to advanced players and even experts, who will the love Score Attack mode with online leaderboards. Not only can you pick from 3 difficulties, you can set the starting number of lives from 3-9 which ensures everyone will be able to go deep in the game. Also, you have the ability to continue, so everyone can "get their moneys worth" and see the whole game.

Personally, I find many of the popular Japanese "manic" and "bullet hell" shooters to be a bit too "manic" and "hellish" for regular daily consumption - let alone mass appeal. You cant pass them without a near total memorization of the bullet patterns. Gradius subscribes to a different school, where with careful play you can possibly reach the 3rd, or even 4th boss on your first ship. I reached the second boss on my very first try after buying the game. He killed me, but it was really my fault for not dodging when I had plenty of time - not because I didnt execute some sort of pre-memorized balletic dance-dodge in the face of a curtain of glowing orbs. My final word on the difficulty of Gradius Birth is, if with all these settings and continues you cant find a way to pass the game, you probably just shouldnt play videogames at all - let alone 2D shooters.

Gradius Rebirth is an both affirmation of and a tribute to everything that made the Gradius series great. It takes the gameplay, bosses and levels of the early Gradius games and rearranges them in a new yet familiar way. The resulting game is a more balanced, polished, and refined experience than the first 3 games in the Gradius series. Gradius Rebirth goes well beyond emulating the vintage Gradius experience - it surpasses it in every way.

Monday, March 9, 2009

IGN Madworld Video Review

If you have a Wii, buy this game.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

IGN Top Ten Legendary Game Designers

We all knew who #1 was gonna be, but its still fun to watch.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

MLB 09 The Show - Gameplay Trailer

So Ive picked up MLB 09 The Show for my PS3, and I have to say its awesome. Its easily the best baseball game of this console generation. With 2K sports failing for year after year to provide a truly compelling experience on the 360, I knew 09 was the right year to make the switch and I have no regrets. With retailers offering deep discounts and used PS3s popping up on ebay for fraction of their new cost, now is a great time to pick one up if you dont already have one. After an awesome year in 2008 and a tremendous start to 2009 with the release of MLB 09 The Show and Killzone 2, Sony's console has finally hit full stride.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Mother Nature Doesnt Do Bailouts

Thom Freidman - The New York Times

Sometimes the satirical newspaper The Onion is so right on, I can’t resist quoting from it. Consider this faux article from June 2005 about America’s addiction to Chinese exports:

FENGHUA, China — Chen Hsien, an employee of Fenghua Ningbo Plastic Works Ltd., a plastics factory that manufactures lightweight household items for Western markets, expressed his disbelief Monday over the “sheer amount of [garbage] Americans will buy. Often, when we’re assigned a new order for, say, ‘salad shooters,’ I will say to myself, ‘There’s no way that anyone will ever buy these.’ ... One month later, we will receive an order for the same product, but three times the quantity. How can anyone have a need for such useless [garbage]? I hear that Americans can buy anything they want, and I believe it, judging from the things I’ve made for them,” Chen said. “And I also hear that, when they no longer want an item, they simply throw it away. So wasteful and contemptible.”

Let’s today step out of the normal boundaries of analysis of our economic crisis and ask a radical question: What if the crisis of 2008 represents something much more fundamental than a deep recession? What if it’s telling us that the whole growth model we created over the last 50 years is simply unsustainable economically and ecologically and that 2008 was when we hit the wall — when Mother Nature and the market both said: “No more.”

We have created a system for growth that depended on our building more and more stores to sell more and more stuff made in more and more factories in China, powered by more and more coal that would cause more and more climate change but earn China more and more dollars to buy more and more U.S. T-bills so America would have more and more money to build more and more stores and sell more and more stuff that would employ more and more Chinese ...

We can’t do this anymore.

“We created a way of raising standards of living that we can’t possibly pass on to our children,” said Joe Romm, a physicist and climate expert who writes the indispensable blog climateprogress.org. We have been getting rich by depleting all our natural stocks — water, hydrocarbons, forests, rivers, fish and arable land — and not by generating renewable flows.

“You can get this burst of wealth that we have created from this rapacious behavior,” added Romm. “But it has to collapse, unless adults stand up and say, ‘This is a Ponzi scheme. We have not generated real wealth, and we are destroying a livable climate ...’ Real wealth is something you can pass on in a way that others can enjoy.”

Over a billion people today suffer from water scarcity; deforestation in the tropics destroys an area the size of Greece every year — more than 25 million acres; more than half of the world’s fisheries are over-fished or fished at their limit.

“Just as a few lonely economists warned us we were living beyond our financial means and overdrawing our financial assets, scientists are warning us that we’re living beyond our ecological means and overdrawing our natural assets,” argues Glenn Prickett, senior vice president at Conservation International. But, he cautioned, as environmentalists have pointed out: “Mother Nature doesn’t do bailouts.”

One of those who has been warning me of this for a long time is Paul Gilding, the Australian environmental business expert. He has a name for this moment — when both Mother Nature and Father Greed have hit the wall at once — “The Great Disruption.”

“We are taking a system operating past its capacity and driving it faster and harder,” he wrote me. “No matter how wonderful the system is, the laws of physics and biology still apply.” We must have growth, but we must grow in a different way. For starters, economies need to transition to the concept of net-zero, whereby buildings, cars, factories and homes are designed not only to generate as much energy as they use but to be infinitely recyclable in as many parts as possible. Let’s grow by creating flows rather than plundering more stocks.

Gilding says he’s actually an optimist. So am I. People are already using this economic slowdown to retool and reorient economies. Germany, Britain, China and the U.S. have all used stimulus bills to make huge new investments in clean power. South Korea’s new national paradigm for development is called: “Low carbon, green growth.” Who knew? People are realizing we need more than incremental changes — and we’re seeing the first stirrings of growth in smarter, more efficient, more responsible ways.

In the meantime, says Gilding, take notes: “When we look back, 2008 will be a momentous year in human history. Our children and grandchildren will ask us, ‘What was it like? What were you doing when it started to fall apart? What did you think? What did you do?’ ” Often in the middle of something momentous, we can’t see its significance. But for me there is no doubt: 2008 will be the marker — the year when ‘The Great Disruption’ began.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Virtua Tennis 2009 Trailer

Just some shots of the player models they are using, no in game footage, but its still pretty impressive. The player model quality equals or surpasses Top Spin 3, and knowing the Virtua Tennis franchise, it will maintain a stable 60 frame per second even with the graphics upgrades. Hopefully the same fun, simple to pick up yet hard to master controls will still be present. Also the minigames will be playable online, which is something a lot of people were asking for and Im sure will be a huge hit. Looking at the whole product, unless something goes horribly wrong, its hard to imagine that SEGA wont have the undisputed best tennis game on the market come this May.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection Impressions

If you even have a whiff of retro gamer in your blood and own a 360 or PS3, do yourself a favor and pick up Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection from your local digicrack dealer. At $30 brand new, this collection is positively the best value on the market. You get almost 50 classic SEGA Genesis and SEGA Arcade games, and they are emulated perfectly. Also included is the ability to zoom and stretch the screen slightly for 16:9 displays, and a smoothing functions which does wonders for removing the pixellation of the older titles and giving them a slightly more impressionistic look. Also included are system level save states - you can save any game at any point, which makes otherwise impossibly difficult games like Comix Zone playable.

Even if you take out all the other games, just for the Sonic games, Streets of Rage 1-3, Golden Axe 1-3, and Phantasy Star 1-4, the collection would still be an absolute steal. That there are over 30 more games (Fantasy Zone, Shinobi III, Zaxxon etc) included is just positively ridiculous. Its a gift from SEGA to retrogamers. Sure, there are some stinkers in there that might only be fun for 5 minutes or an achievement, but the cream of the crop is so good, and the value is so great, that complaining about the omission of Gunstar Heroes, or anything else for that matter, seems pettty. The best $30 you will spend in 2009.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Little BIG Contra

If the sound isnt working for you, goto IGN Videos, it should work.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Empire: Total War IGN Review

Another awesome entry in the Total War series.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Perfect FPS Controller?

mLani Studios is gearing up for a spring release for the MoBi, a wireless PlayStation 3 and PC controller that's one part mouse, one part analog stick.

The MoBi basically takes a PlayStation 3 controller and splits it in half. Movement is controlled by the analog stick on the bit held in the left hand, while a 2000 DPI, 500 megahertz laser mouse takes the place of the right analog stick. It's mouse and keyboard control, only without the pesky keyboard taking up all that room. Of course you'll still need a flat surface for the mouse, but that's what TV trays are made for. On a PC, the MoBi functions like any other laser mouse, with the WASD keys mapped to the analog stick on the left hand device.

It really sweet looking, and the concept is great, but will the price and actual performance of this thing make it worth buying? Im not sure. A normal controller is by far the most ergonomic way to interact with a game; using a mouse for hours on end can really stress you finger and hand muscles as many of my MMO dedicated friends will testify. But the other reality is, you just cant play Unreal 3 very well with a controller. The game is just too damn fast. It built from the ground up for M&K controls. So for fast, competetive online FPS games like Unreal 3, CoD4, and Killzone 2, this looks like it could be a very effective solution for PS3 owners, and a cool alternative for PC gamers.